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N553CH accident description

Nevada map... Nevada list
Crash location 36.293055°N, 115.348055°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city North Las Vegas, NV
36.198859°N, 115.117501°W
14.4 miles away
Tail number N553CH
Accident date 04 Apr 2003
Aircraft type Cessna 172P
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On April 4, 2003, about 0750 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 172P, N553CH, collided with the ground about 8.5 miles west-northwest of North Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas Flying Club operated the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The certified flight instructor/examiner and private pilot applicant were both fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight originated at North Las Vegas Airport (VGT) about 0730 as a private pilot practical flight test.

The private pilot certification check ride started with pattern work at the VGT airport followed by a departure northwest to the practice area and frequency change at 5 miles. The practice area encompasses a drainage retention basin and is frequently used for emergency engine-out procedures.

There were no witnesses to the accident.

The wind conditions were reported as light and variable.


Instructor pilot information

The instructor pilot was certificated as an airline transport pilot, rated for airplane single and multiengine land airplanes, and instructor rated for the same, including instrument. He was a ground instructor rated for advanced instrument. The instructor was a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designated pilot examiner. At a June 4, 2002, FAA qualification record update, he reported a total flight time of 13,800 hours, with 11,100 hours of flight instruction, and 600 hours of flight instruction in the last 12 months.

Student pilot information

The student pilot was an applicant for a private pilot's certificate. According to FAA records, the student had reported a total of 31 flight hours at a June 3, 2002, class two flight physical. No additional flight times were recovered for the student. The student held a flight engineer certificate and was an aviation maintenance technician.


The last documented annual inspection occurred on March 1, 2003, at a recording tachometer time of 1,694.6 hours. On March 4, 2003, an overhauled carburetor was installed at 1,695.7 hours.


The accident site was in a large flash flood drainage catch basin of open semi-flat desert commonly used for flight training. The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) examined the wreckage of the airplane and the engine on site. The entire airplane was accounted for at the site. A post crash fire consumed the fuselage from the vertical stabilizer dorsal fin to the engine compartment. Fire consumed both wing roots outboard to past the fuel tank bays. Fire consumed the engine accessories as well.

Examination of the wreckage revealed a right wing leading edge accordion damage about midspan outward. The right-hand horizontal stabilizer and elevator exhibited midspan upward bending. The engine was driven aft beyond the firewall with upward crushing of the forward lower firewall and cabin area. The flap actuator was in the flaps retracted position. The elevator trim tab was in the mid-travel down position. The propeller exhibited minimal damage. A post accident fire consumed the center section of the airplane.

The right wing leading edge accordioned aft to the main spar increasing in depth outboard. Ground scars were noted at the wing tip trailing aft (as if the airplane were rotating to the left). The aileron was still attached. The wing flap retracted and burnt. The left wing revealed very little leading edge damage from the landing light outboard. The left aileron was still attached to the wing with upward bending at the outboard hinge. The wing flap was retracted and burnt.

The empennage was displaced to the right about 10 degrees. All control counterweights were in place. The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator bent upwards about midspan. The left horizontal stabilizer and elevator, as well as the rudder and vertical stabilizer, were undamaged. The elevator trim tab was in the mid-travel range.

The IIC established control cable continuity/system except for supporting hardware lost in the areas affected by the post crash fire.

The IIC examined the engine and found it free of catastrophic internal failure. He established valve train continuity by rotation of the crankshaft with the propeller and fractured crankshaft flange removed. He obtained thumb compression on all four cylinders.


On April 6, 2003, the Clark County Medical Examiner performed autopsies on the pilots. During the course of the procedure, they obtained samples for toxicological analysis by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The results of the analysis were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, and drugs.


The Safety Board did not take possession of the wreckage.

NTSB Probable Cause

the applicant pilot's failure to maintain an adequate airspeed while maneuvering, which resulted in an inadvertent stall/spin.

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